Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


The 20 Degree Rule

December 20th, 2010, Promulgated by Gen

In order to settle the matter definitively, I’ve decided to dedicate an entire post to the topic of the 20 degree rule for servers. Note: this is seldom observed, and the non-observance of it does not in any way make the Mass invalid or illicit.

Young men must think of the Mass as artful worship, something which must be caressed tenderly and gingerly to evoke the full spectrum of emotions which come from the Mass. If an action looks too rehearsed or “on-the-nose”, there is a definite lack of beauty. There’s an intensity which seems to cut the calm. For this reason, looking perpetually straight-forward as a server has certain risks which can be rather serious:

  • In not looking slightly down (20 degrees), you aren’t looking exactly at what’s before you. Yes, you may be looking at the sanctuary, maybe even the tabernacle, but what about the hem of the boy in front of you? What about the thurible which is coming perilously close to your shin?
  • In not looking slightly down, you look slightly stiff. There ought to be nothing stiff at the Holy Mass. Precision and accuracy are absolutely imperative, but not at the risk of looking like a robot.
  • By casting one’s eyes slightly downward (again, we’re casting eyes downward, not the entire head), the servers/priests/choir members/whoever’s processing have an air of humility about them. No one can really put their finger on it, but it’s definitely there. Sure, if you’re looking straight at the sanctuary as you process into it, with eyes slightly up, you could very well be considering the Quam Dilecta. However, the Mass starts with Iudica Me, certainly an “eyes cast downward” kind of psalm. “Judge me, O God,” conveys a sense of deference to something greater, and there is no better way to convey this emotion than to carry oneself gracefully and with eyes just slightly (20 degrees isn’t a lot!) cast down.

For some photos which capture these sentiments, just click here.

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